Former client in the Transitional Housing Program
I was born in Kenya in a family of four sisters and three brothers. My parents were farmers and used part of the produce to pay our school fees, medical expenses and clothing. As I was growing up I was able to identify favouritism for boys. My brothers would get presents and taken to the big city while we were left behind tilling the land, drawing water in the river, fetching firewood for cooking and doing all the household chores. I am educated up to college level
I was married at age 20 and had my first and only surviving child at 21. I was in a very abusive marriage for 10 years. I was diagnosed with HIV in 1998 during a routine ante natal checkup. The doctor told me that I had AIDS and will die after six months. It was a time in my country when HIV/AIDS information was very scarce. My husband died the same year I lost my baby. He was ailing and wasted and everyone knew he was sick with AIDS.
People expected me to die.
I was devastated by the multiple losses and faced a lot of rejection from people. In 1999 I joined a support group of five women and we formed the first organization of people living with AIDS, the same year I went public with my HIV status on world AIDS day.
I started educating communities, giving HIV talks and advocating for people living with HIV/AIDS. I was involved in advocating the government to make HIV treatment accessible and in 2003 HIV medication was made affordable in my country.
I was involved in empowering women to take charge of their lives, through skills building, human rights issues, advocacy and how to start income generating activities in order for them to be financially stable. This did not go well with some men (their husbands). I started receiving threatening and intimidating calls and they once broke into my house, destroying my household items.
One morning I received an anonymous letter threatening to kill me. I reported it to the police, but they did nothing. Three weeks later, my house was petrol bombed, burning everything to ashes. I came to Canada for fear of my life.
I lived at a shelter for refugees seeking protection but I didn’t know anyone. I checked the internet where I got the phone numbers for agencies that could help me, and was given an intake appointment.
I was introduced to a housing worker from Fife House who was very compassionate and understanding.
She tried getting an apartment for me but no landlord was willing to take me because of my refugee status. At the shelter I was asked daily when I would move out because they needed my bed for a new person, giving me a lot of stress. I shared this with my housing worker who consulted her manager regarding any available space. Luckily I was accepted to the Transitional Housing Program.
I was introduced to a very compassionate and friendly case worker who orientated me on the programs available and supported me in setting my goals. I was given a bedroom fully furnished; with my own bathroom and a small fridge. This made me feel safe and secure and so I volunteered with other AIDS service organizations. This kept me occupied throughout the week and after four months I moved out to a bachelor apartment.
I am currently working with an AIDS service organization, a job I have held since I left Fife House. My health has improved, a result of the in-depth case management session which explored my holistic well being and I am no longer taking antidepressants. I feel more confident, more optimistic, hopeful and secure now, compared to when I arrived in Canada. To me, Fife House means hope for the hopeless and home for the homeless. It provided me with a second chance at living by mothering me in a country where I knew no one.